A series of free-verse poems gives readers a relentless look at the bright side of life in the projects. Told in the oh-so-childlike voice of 10-year-old DeShawn, they cover such topics as “What Is Life Like in the ’Hood,” “Watching the News,” “I Hate Graffiti,” and “I Love My Block.” The loosely linked poems present snapshots of DeShawn’s life and the important people in it, showing how he confronts, copes with, and ultimately overcomes the inescapable harshness of his environment. In this offering, his first for children, Medina presents a verse that is coyly artless, often employing a too-cute exclamation point: about his beloved grandma, DeShawn writes that “Everybody likes her—even my friends / when they come over they end / calling her Ma just like I do!” A little bit of this goes a long way, and there is not enough subtlety or craft to the verse to compensate. Christie’s (Only Passing Through, 2000, etc.) bright, faux-primitive acrylics carry more power than the text, but the out-of-proportion figures are ultimately unattractive—the ungainly image of DeShawn’s grandmother that accompanies the poem “My Grandmother’s Legs” is undeniably strong, but it is hard to see the loving woman that DeShawn describes. Obviously an attempt to create a resilient, innocent character whose family, imagination, and sweet nature help him to survive in a difficult world, it serves up a sort of project Pollyanna. Sincerity to spare, but not much else. (Picture book/poetry. 7-10)

Pub Date: July 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-58430-022-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Lee & Low Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2001

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An uncomplicated opener, with some funny bits and a clear but not heavy agenda.


From the Here's Hank series , Vol. 1

Hank Zipzer, poster boy for dyslexic middle graders everywhere, stars in a new prequel series highlighting second-grade trials and triumphs.

Hank’s hopes of playing Aqua Fly, a comic-book character, in the upcoming class play founder when, despite plenty of coaching and preparation, he freezes up during tryouts. He is not particularly comforted when his sympathetic teacher adds a nonspeaking role as a bookmark to the play just for him. Following the pattern laid down in his previous appearances as an older child, he gets plenty of help and support from understanding friends (including Ashley Wong, a new apartment-house neighbor). He even manages to turn lemons into lemonade with a quick bit of improv when Nick “the Tick” McKelty, the sneering classmate who took his preferred role, blanks on his lines during the performance. As the aforementioned bully not only chokes in the clutch and gets a demeaning nickname, but is fat, boastful and eats like a pig, the authors’ sensitivity is rather one-sided. Still, Hank has a winning way of bouncing back from adversity, and like the frequent black-and-white line-and-wash drawings, the typeface is designed with easy legibility in mind.

An uncomplicated opener, with some funny bits and a clear but not heavy agenda. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-448-48239-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2014

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Readers will be waiting to see how Charlie faces his next challenge in a series that marks a lovely change of pace from the...


From the Charlie Bumpers series , Vol. 1

Charlie Bumpers is doomed. The one teacher he never wanted in the whole school turns out to be his fourth-grade teacher.

Charlie recalls third grade, when he accidentally hit the scariest teacher in the whole school with his sneaker. “I know all about you, Charlie Bumpers,” she says menacingly on the first day of fourth grade. Now, in addition to all the hardships of starting school, he has gotten off on the wrong foot with her. Charlie’s dry and dramatic narrative voice clearly reveals the inner life of a 9-year-old—the glass is always half empty, especially in light of a series of well-intentioned events gone awry. It’s quite a litany: “Hitting Mrs. Burke in the head with the sneaker. The messy desk. The swinging on the door. The toilet paper. And now this—the shoe on the roof.” Harley has teamed once again with illustrator Gustavson (Lost and Found, 2012) to create a real-life world in which a likable kid must face the everyday terrors of childhood: enormous bullies, looming teachers and thick gym coaches with huge pointing fingers. Into this series opener, Harley magically weaves the simple lesson that people, even teachers, can surprise you.

Readers will be waiting to see how Charlie faces his next challenge in a series that marks a lovely change of pace from the sarcasm of Wimpy Kid. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-56145-732-8

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2013

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